Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dragon Storm: The Woman Looking Away

Yesterday I talked about musical duets and a woman who played violin.

That reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what.

I thought about it all day. Then, late Monday night, I sat down and looked over at my bookshelf and went from left to right, staring at each of the books and thinking, “Is it something from that book? Is it something from that book?” all the way across the shelf.

And the method worked!

This is what I was thinking of:

“In that syrupy operetta Das Dreimaderlhaus, Franz Schubert pays court to all three maiden daughters of his patron. Paul Kammerer broke the record by falling in love successively with the five famous Wiesenthal sisters. Four of them were ballet dancers, the fifth played violin.”

The fifth played violin!

None of those love affairs worked out very well. And one of them—with the eldest sister, Grete, a dancer—apparently played some part in Kammerer’s suicide. At about the same time the evidence became available that someone—Kammerer’s assistant?—had faked the nuptial pads on the toads, Grete decided that she would not accompany Kammerer to Moscow. Apparently the combination was too much for Kammerer and he went for a walk in the woods and shot himself in the head. Reports were that he held the gun in his right hand and, for some reason, reached around and shot himself in the left side of his head.

“The only explanation of sorts was offered, not by a psychiatrist, but by an intuitive woman. Though Kammerer was an abstemious man, he might have had a few drinks to give himself Dutch courage before he set out on his last walk. Sitting with his back to the rock, he might have hesitated for a long time, then, with a sudden swinging gesture, brought his arm around his face and the gun to the left ear. There is more panache in such a gesture than in the conventional lifting of the gun, right hand to right temple. Even if not drunk, the gesture would fit an impulse of sudden desperate exaltation—and end with a flourish. His death had a touch of melodrama, but so had his life. He was a Byron among the toads.”

That’s what I was trying to think of!

“He was a Byron among the toads.”

The girl playing violin yesterday was reminding me of Kammerer and one of the younger Wiesenthal sisters. And that was reminding me of Koestler’s outstanding epithet for Kammerer: “He was a Byron among the toads.”

There are worse ways a person’s life could be summed up!


There’s a storm raging on Saturn
but we can’t walk to Saturn’s moons
and stretch out on a rock to watch
dragon-shaped clouds swirl on Saturn
and maybe strum on a guitar
improvising a song about
a knight watching a dragon grow
but holding his station sword raised
somehow brave somehow standing firm
somehow not driven mad in fear
by the dragon growing larger.

If a scientist discovered
a star-gate a portal between
everywhere and anywhere else
would that matter when a woman
right there became the only thing
he could see and she looked away
and then the star-gate stopped working
and all the scientist could see
would be dragons and all of them
would be swirling chaos growing
like clouds at night blocking the stars?

The scientist should have written
a song and closed his eyes and sang
and maybe played along without
looking at his guitar strings or
watching his fingers press down keys
and what could the dragons have done
and what could swirling chaos do
or the woman looking away
everywhere far away again
from right there from that one firm spot
where a scientist stands singing.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Paul Kammerer at Wikipedia


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An Unclear Story About Walking To Mars

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